The following is my recent letter to the Dunkerton High School administration, teachers and school board in response to a recent event that was held in which a group of right-wing, religious terrorists held an assembly which was held under the guise of anti-bullying and making good decisions. During this assembly homosexuality was called deviant, a video showing dismembered fetuses was broadcast and young girls were told to be submissive to their husbands and were told to recite a mantra proclaiming their purity. The school’s superintendint claims the event was positive and had a great message for the students. What a shameful event.
I have never in my life been more disgusted to be an Iowa citizen. Your school recently held a religious, anti-gay, hate-filled assembly – during which homosexuality was compared to promiscuity and considered ‘deviant behavior.’ With the rapid rise in suicide amongst gay or questioning teenagers in recent years, your school chose to have this group, a group of men who sell their hate as entertainment and for ‘educational’ purposes, you chose to pay money for these men to speak to the students of your school?
This decision was an incredibly gross perversion of the law and of basic moral understanding and judgment. Perhaps you have a civics teacher who can bring you up to speed on such landmark Supreme Court cases as: Engel v. Vitale, Abington School District v. Schempp, and most importantly Lemon v. Kurtzman which established the “Lemon Test.” This recently held assembly, in my opinion, does not hold up to the scrutiny that is required by this test.
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Did any administrator, teacher or staff ever think to question whether or not any students would be offended by this event? Do you assume all of your students are born-again, evangelical Christians? Even if they are, it is a Constitutional violation for you to use tax-payer dollars to fund these religious activities, even if under the guise of some other purpose. To claim these men were there to speak about bullying makes this an even more egregious and ridiculous event. If you’ve seen the groups’ reaction to the negative response to the assembly, it’s bullying manifest again in their hate speech. You’ve somehow rationalized this group as being anti-bullying when in fact their whole existence is contrary to the idea of acceptance, love and tolerance. As much as I may disagree and despise their message, what’s more confusing is your seeming ignorance that you were unaware of their beliefs. You claim you’ve welcomed them before to your school for an event, well shame on you for wasting money a second time for allowing hateful, fear mongering terrorists into our schools.
With the recent battle in Des Moines pitting the Teacher’s Lobby against the Legislature and Governor over teacher salaries and merit increases in addition to the ailing economy and shrinking State Education budget, it bewilders me to see your school spending thousands of dollars on this event. Was it worth it? I’ve already pointed out the obvious legal and moral issues you’ve overlooked, but was this the best allocation of funds?
The next time your school is looking to teach students about bullying and ‘making good choices’ perhaps you should look at actual experts. The Southern Poverty Law Center has a great teaching video on school bullying; you could invite health professionals from local healthcare facilities to speak about human sexuality and safe sex instead of showing videos degrading Elton John and dismembered fetuses. However, if your idea of teaching and guiding Iowa’s youth to make better decisions involves videos of dismembered fetuses, you should immediately withdraw from teaching and working at a public school and find a religious institution to parade, promote and prosthelytize your religious beliefs to your students.
Mr. Stanton claiming the group had a ‘positive message’ seems as if he is either clueless, mentally ill or is in severe denial. The group also claimed during the assembly that the girl’s remain pure and maintain a submissive role in their marriages. So to re-cap, an assembly that called homosexuality ‘deviant behavior’, claiming women need to be submissive to men, showed video of dismembered fetuses, and had an overall religious theme that had children reciting mantras to remain ‘pure’ is somehow being construed as an overall positive and uplifting event? Disgusting and delusional.
I stated at the beginning of this letter that I’m extremely embarrassed to be an Iowan today. To live in a state that used to pride itself on our Educational system, what have we come to? You’ve now bullied our youth with religious extremism under the guise of a message of tolerance. You’re promoting a message that women should be slaves to their husbands, barefoot and pregnant. Not only does it appear that this assembly promotes bullying; it would appear that is what G-d wants. This so-called positive assemblies messages were anti-abortion, anti-woman, pro-slavery, anti-gay and anti-tolerance, if the message was delivered in the name of G-d and with a smile, does that make it positive?
Your school’s decision to buck the law of the land, spend tax-payer dollars on a religious assembly and to promote hate is deplorable. My heart hurts for these children; I will hope and pray that they become better for this experience and that the hateful beliefs of a few only serve as a lesson of how intolerance, hate and subservience have no place in today’s society, let alone our children’s classrooms.